I had a birthday the other day, and as most of you know, I’m no spring chicken. But I started to wonder – has my life been a success?
Now, I must admit I don’t feel entirely comfortable using the past tense here because I’ve still got some gas left in the tank – I hope!
But it made me think – what constitutes success in a life?
If someone has an expensive car and a luxurious house by the harbour, would you say that person is a success?
You probably would, right?
What if they have a massive stock or property portfolio, or a beautiful holiday home by the sea, or a swanky mountain retreat – would you say that person is a success?
Again, you probably would.
Supposing that same person has several failed marriages. And a brood of children that hate his or her guts. And supposing that person got their wealth through greed and deceit. Would you still regard that person a success?
Material wealth and possessions aren’t, in my view, an indicator of success.
In the work I do, as a filmmaker and author, success can be marked by awards. But I know plenty of people who have done great work that’s had a major impact on culture and they’ve never won an award.
Good critical reviews for a creative work could be seen to be a marker of success – but again history shows us that what we regard as masterpieces now were often dismissed or even vilified at the time when these works were first released and critiqued.
In the creative industries, if you make a lot of money you’re regarded as being a success.
But what you make, or do, could be ugly and hurtful.
If someone for instance became wealthy by making pornography, would you regard that person a success? Or if they created works that were exploitative or incited hatred or violence – is that a successful life?
For me, morals and ethics hold way more sway than material displays of success.
Did Gandhi achieve success in life?
You bet he did.
Did Mother Teresa achieve success in life?
Damn right she did.
They both had bugger all in terms of possessions.
But the impact they made on humanity was immeasurable.
We all can’t be Gandhis or Mother Teresas,
but in some small way we can put a dent in the Universe,
As Steve Jobs put it.
We were born to create.
That’s what our purpose is, I believe.
And every day we create, all of us, in one way or another.
What we create, and how we do it, is what defines us.
I was on a podcast recently hosted by an entrepreneur,
and he asked me:
What would you say has been your greatest success?
My family, I told this podcaster.
That flummoxed him.
He didn’t expected me to say that.
But I believe it absolutely.
Everything else is secondary to that.
For me, success in life is waking up each morning,
being able to do what I love doing.
That to me is a successful life.
I would term success as living your life with a great sense of intent and purpose, whatever that looks like for you.
Whatever abundance signifies for you, living with great intent, choosing a life of abundance.
For me that’s an abundance of joy, love, purpose & passion, travel & independence. An abundance of clarity. An abundance of creativity.
These can all sound like trite and rather vacuous ‘affirmations’ but I firmly believe that they don’t have to be at all.
I’m currently reading your daughter’s lovely book ‘Only in Spain’ as she takes the bold and brave decision to live way beyond her comfort zone & follow her passion for flamenco all the way to Sevilla. Now to me that Is living an abundant life, that is a successful life. Olé to that.
We can choose at any time to step beyond our our comfort zones & reach for that sense of purpose which lies latent within us all just waiting for us to light the touch paper & burst into our full potential.
So very true Deborah, and nicely put! Isn’t Nell’s book a cracker?
Totally agree, Bill. Very few gravestones say “He worked hard and contributed to society” I won’t have one myself, although I don’t know what to do with my ashes. Maybe plant a tree or something. I hope I have made and will continue to make a positive contribution to business, the community, but ultimately if I get remembered as a loved Dad, Poppa, family member and friend, who gave my time and love, I’ll be satisfied.
I agree Luigi! As Jackson Browne said: Nothing survives, except the way we live our lives….
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I heartily agree with both you and Jackson Browne 🙂
I love that song Britta – if you have the chance, take a listen. It’s called Daddy’s Tune I think! (hope you’re staying well!)
In the words of that Rare Earth song, I just want to celebrate another day of living! You are spot on, Bill. And it begs further review as success is a human construct that leads towards separation from one another, when we compare ourselves with one another rather than measuring success from within–being at peace.